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last update 28.Mar.08
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Breakfast with Scot   4/5
breakfast with scot A lively, realistic tone helps make this Toronto-set comedy much more than we expect, stirring in some thoughtful themes and honest emotion.

After being badly injured during a hockey game, cocky Maple Leafs player Eric (Cavanagh) finds a new career as a sports commentator. No one knows he's gay, living with his long-term partner Sam (Shenkman). When Sam's sister-in-law dies suddenly, he inherits his 11-year-old nephew Scot (Bernett), who is far more interested in musicals than hockey ("Who's Wayne Gretzky?"). As Sam is busy with work, Eric ends up trying to bond with Scot, adapting Scot's figure-skating skills to the hockey arena even as Scot helps Eric relax his mask of masculinity.

Frankly, the plot sounds like the premise for either a bad sitcom or a lame movie farce. Fortunately, the filmmakers take a refreshingly layered route through the story, breathing new life into the fish-out-of-water foster child genre in the process. It's the well-rounded characters that make this work, as they never settle into the stereotypes they could so easily have become. And the cast is likeable and engaging.

Bernett is the discovery here, creating an effeminate young character in just 90 minutes who's just as complex as Mark Indelicato's Justin after two seasons on Ugly Betty. Scot also brings a strong tinge of emotion to the comedy as a boy grieving over his mother even as he struggles to find his identity in a new setting. And his interaction with Cavanagh is telling and entertaining, especially when Eric starts worrying that Scot might be making him too gay.

The film's overall tone is a little uneven, wavering between Mighty Ducks-style silliness and much more serious family drama, including extremely heavy themes like drugs, death and sexuality in both school and the workplace. But it's written with a natural honesty that keeps us thoroughly involved. And even when the standard movie structure kicks in for the final act, we're caught off guard by how sweet and touching the predictable finale actually is.

dir Laurie Lynd
scr Sean Reycraft
with Tom Cavanagh, Ben Shenkman, Noah Bernett, Graham Greene, Megan Follows, Jeananne Goossen, Robin Brulé, Alexander Franks, Dylan Everett, Vanessa Thompson, Colin Cunningham, Shauna MacDonald
bernett and cavanagh
release Can 16.Nov.07,
UK Mar.08 llgff,
US 10.Oct.08
07/Canada 1h36

london L&G film fest
15 themes, language, some violence
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The Curiosity of Chance   4/5
far north Both poking fun at and nostalgic for the 1980s, this comedy has a surprising depth beneath the goofiness. And it's also a terrific feel-good movie.

"Somewhere in Europe in the 1980s", ubergeek Chance Marquis (Hilgenbrink) enters an international high school determined to stand out. Which isn't difficult when you wear a top hat and cane, or an eye-patch. As he befriends two other oddballs--sassy Twyla (DaSilva) and clueless Hank (Van Nieuwenhuyze)--he lusts after his hunky neighbour Levi (Chukerman), a football player who's also his new lab partner. But their friendship is strained by Levi's bullying teammate (Maes), especially when Chance discovers his inner drag queen and Levi admits he'd rather be a musician than a musclehead.

Assembled like a more-colourful John Hughes teen comedy, the film feels like Pretty in Pink as told from Duckie's perspective. Although the Euro-setting allows it to go quite a bit further than Hughes ever did in examining the less mainstream side of teendom, such as steroid use, parental pressure and, erm, pansexual nightclubs. In this sense, the wacky colours and situations actually have a serious edge. And the stereotypical characters have surprising depth.

As it progresses, filmmaker Marleau ticks all the boxes, from yearning teen angst to the nerds-vs-jocks conflict. All of the characters are here too, including the brainy little sister (Cameron), the oblivious dad (Mulkey) and the fearsome principal (Uytterhaegen). Not to mention a hysterical 1980s song score. But everything has a twist to it, and also a bit more complexity than most teen movies. And the film's central plot takes some unexpectedly mature turns along the way.

After the garish opening scenes, it's engaging to see the film shift into something far more interesting, with layered performances (Hilgenbrink is a likeable cross between James Marsden and Seann William Scott) and telling details, all while remaining silly and hilariously enjoyable. In the end, the film is actually an astute look at the in-crowd and outcast elements of teen society, challenging each stereotype to find something genuine. Which somehow actually makes the film even funnier. And also proves the film's opening salvo that everything about the '80s was embarrassing, but the music was great.

dir-scr Russell P Marleau
with Tad Hilgenbrink, Brett Chukerman, Chris Mulkey, Aldevina DaSilva, Pieter Van Nieuwenhuyze, Maxim Maes, Colleen Cameron, Tony Beck, Magali Uytterhaegen, Danny Calander, Tineke Caels, Joyce Berx
chukerman and hilgenbrink
release US Oct.06 slgff,
UK Mar.08 llgff
06/Belgium 1h38

london l&g film fest
12 themes, language
7.Mar.08 llgff
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Otto; or, Up With Dead People   4/5
otto With each film, LaBruce increases his filmmaking prowess and breaks down the audience's barrier to his in-your-face style. And this time he's made a genuinely touching horror-porn movie.

In the not-so-distant future, zombies walk among us. Otto (Crisfar) is a young dead man who can't quite remember his life ("Was I a vegetarian?"). Enter filmmaker Medea Yarn (Klewinghaus), who casts him in her new film, Up With Dead People, a black and white political drama about a new strain of gay zombies. But Medea decides to make a film about Otto instead. During production, he's befriended by his costar (Schlutt) and begins to remember his former boyfriend (Peter), who's still very much alive.

The film opens with a quote from The Razor's Edge: "The dead look so terribly dead when they're dead." And LaBruce carries on with his typical blend of acidic humour and pointed politics, encouraging hilariously broad performances that are oddly engaging, plus going far beyond the limits of cinematic good taste in his use of violence and sex. And this film offers plenty of opportunity to mix the two, especially in one outrageous scene in which Medea stages a zombie orgy to "redefine the meaning of carnality", crosscut with images of the butcher shop owned by Otto's father (Kuschner).

And LaBruce has even bigger targets. As the story progresses the film becomes a jagged examination of urban life, about how any subculture can chew you up and spit you out (in this case either the film industry or the gay scene). Otto's realisation that the living have no respect for the dead works on so many layers that your head hurts a little. And LaBruce's cutaway images from horror films, wartime carnage and immolation aren't remotely random.

Newcomers to LaBruce's inventive style might find the home video production values, stiff acting and cheesy effects somewhat off-putting, not to mention the extreme imagery. But Otto's story is surprisingly moving, and the film has a lot to say about the paralysing sameness in society, not to mention some fairly astonishing Aids subtext. In many ways LaBruce's films are pure anti-Hollywood. And just what we may need.

dir-scr Bruce La Bruce
with Jey Crisfar, Katharina Klewinghaus, Susanne Sachsse, Marcel Schlutt, Fritz Fritze, Guido Sommer, Christophe Chemin, Gio Black Peter, Stefan Kuschner, Jürgen Seipel, John Wloch, Keith Böhm
crisfar release US Jan.08 sff;
UK Mar.08 llgff;
Ger 21.Aug.08
08/Germany 1h35

london L&G film fest
18 themes, violence, strong grisliness, extreme sexuality
15.Mar.08 llgff
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You Belong to Me   3.5/5
you belong to me Combining most of the themes from Hitchcock's films, this gentle drama slowly cranks up the suspense until it turns into an increasingly scary thriller.

When the San Francisco architect Jeffrey (Sauli) is dumped by his boyfriend Rene (Lucas), he doesn't take it very well. He starts stalking Rene, seeing him with another man (Boutté) and secretly following them home. There's a flat vacant in their building, so Jeffrey decides it's time he moves away from his possessive flatmate (Simms). As he settles in, the landlady downstairs (D'Arbanville) and the fix-it man (Howard) seem nice if rather too nosey, and there's some mystery about the previous tenant, plus some strange noises downstairs that he decides to investigate.

As the story proceeds, writer-director Zalutsky quietly begins squeezing us, at first with blackly comical insinuation, then adding on-screen splashes of red, strange stains in the carpet, things that go bump in the night, a jittery dog, some freaky suspense and even a bit of low-key action. The progression is gripping and involving, mainly because the shift is so subtle from a slightly corny break-up melodrama into something rather terrifyingly similar to Misery.

The cast is superb, adeptly catching this fine line between comedy and horror by playing their roles with nuance and suggestion that's just short of winking at the camera. Sauli is extremely likeable--goofy and pathetic and far too curious for his own good. D'Arbanville is clearly having a ball chewing on the scenery. And each scene is populated with prickly side characters who all seem like they're up to something.

All the way through, the film is packed with nods to Hitchcock films, most notably Vertigo and Psycho. And when it swerves suddenly into new territory, it gets increasingly unpredictable. That said, it's more fun than inventive (splashes of red were passé in 1975), and the direction and editing sometimes wobble awkwardly, including a strangely abrupt climax. But the inclusion of some underlying themes, including an Aids subtext, makes it much more than it seems to be. And marks Zalutsky as a filmmaker to watch.

dir-scr Sam Zalutsky
with Daniel Sauli, Patti D'Arbanville, Sherman Howard, Heather Alicia Simms, Julien Lucas, Duane Boutté, George Loros, Kevin Corstange, Rafael Sardina, Linda Larkin, Alexander Cendese, Laith Nakli
sauli release US Jun.07 sfilff,
UK Mar.08 llgff
07/US 1h22

london L&G film fest
15 themes, language, violence
5.Mar.08 llgff
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© 2008 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall